When we arrive at the Polo Club Saint-Tropez, Pablo Mac Donough, casually clad in jeans and sneakers, greets us with Spanish-infused English. He confirms that there is nothing surprising about that, but also that things could just as well have gone the other way: until his grandfather’s time, and as his name betrays, the Mac Donoughs were a completely Irish family whose members “only inter-married amongst themselves”. For the past two generations, however, Argentinian blood has been mingled with these purebred Irish. And in Pablo, the family now has a new champion in the polo world.
King of the media and close friends
Richard Mille’s ambassador strategy may be slightly bewildering, given a proven ability to establish a presence at the very top of disciplines that attract intense media coverage: sailing, golf, tennis, cars. It also however encompasses a number of lesser-known talents.
Thus, in total contrast to ultra-publicised Rafael Nadal and his strong development in the design of his “RMs”, Pablo Mac Donough is completely unknown to the public and admits he “did not in any way take part in the development” of his RM 05. He even adds with a smile: “I am a polo player, not a watchmaker”. At the opposite end of the spectrum to the slightly controversial role played by Natalie Portman, the least involved of the brand friends, one might well mention Michelle Yeoh, the wife of Jean Todt, who is also a company ambassador! Clearly an example of shared family tastes. Personal preferences thus remain the predominant factor in these choices, although the business side of things is clearly significant: Richard Mille invests 2.5 % of its turnover in its ambassadors, meaning around 4.5 million euros.
A family affair
Richard Mille remains strongly driven by the automobile world, to which the brand is primarily committed, through associations with Sébastien Loeb, Jean Todt, the Princesses Prestige Rally, Le Mans, Lotus F1, Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean to name but a few. This passion for mechanics is not so much fuelled by the brand as by the man, Richard Mille himself, who is car crazy. The company’s ambassador model therefore relies on his personal friendships. Nevertheless, even as the brand has developed, Richard Mille has retained these essentially friendly ties with ambassadors.
Since 2012, Pablo Mac Donough has also embodied this esprit de corps. “Richard and I met through a mutual friend who is also a very good Argentinian player” explains the champion. If that was the case, why did the relationship not develop with this friend rather than with Mac Donough?”.“Because I am professional and he is amateur. For Richard, that was what made the difference.”
And for the Argentinian rider as well it would appear – because in his day, he was also widely sought-after, notably by Rolex with whom he still enjoys an excellent relationship, thanks to his wife who was an employee. One might well also imagine him being approached Jaeger-LeCoultre whose Reverso has embodied the polo spirit for 85 years. Fate however smiled on Richard Mille and the idea proved immediately worthwhile in that Mac Donough’s season encompasses quarter-years divided between Dubai, England and Argentina – thus ensuring multiple representations at close quarters on these markets targeted by the brand.
At the end of the day, discretion is a quality that Richard Mille shares with polo. “I am not as well- known as Rafael Nadal and polo is not as popular as tennis, but Richard Mille is also relatively less known than some brands. We understand each other. I like not being just a number in a big commercial machine” says Pablo Mac Donough.
Under the rays of the setting sun over the Polo Club Saint-Tropez, one could almost forget to talk about his RM 053 Tourbillon. “Oh, there’s not much to say,” says Pablo Mac Donough. “In the very beginning, three years ago, I lost a watch hand. Richard’s team put it back. Since then nothing has ever gone wrong and I wear it every day.” That has to be the best possible ‘customer testimonial… from a friend.